The management team behind Infogistics' chief executive Andrei Mikheev, left, and chief technology officer Steve Finch.

PROFILE The Russia connection

INFOGISTICS was founded by Andrei Mikheev and his business partner Steve Finch. Dr Mikheev is Russian, and much of the development work continues at the Moscow State University. He and Dr Finch started collaborating at Edinburgh University. They see their future market as the US, and are recruiting a chief executive there.

IT SEEMS hard to believe, but only six years ago it was possible to catalogue almost every website in existence.That's what Yahoo! did, using teams of researchers to check the details.

That became unwieldy and even Yahoo! had to add software search engines to try to keep track of the exploding number of pages, although humans are involved in the process.

Researchers at Edinburgh University have come up with a technology which combines searching and browsing and are spinning it out into a private company called Infogistics.

Essentially what its search system, Infonetware, does is to use statistical and linguistic analysis to find words that commonly occur close to each other. So a search on "Scottish business", for example, will produce a list of subcategories such as "Scottish Enterprise", as the software recognises that the words business and enterprise are in some way related.

"It's a bit like free association psychology, the way it recogises words," said the chief executive, Andrei Mikheev. "It uses artificial intelligence to create the equivalent of the index at the back of the book."

The aim of the company is not to create another commercial search site, but to license the technology to businesses. Dr Mikheev believes that there is a demand from large corporations which have vast numbers of documents on their intranets and need to make them as accessible as possible to their staff.

He also sees e-commerce potential in the form of websites which have a wide range of products which, using Infogistics' technology, customers will be able to search efficiently.

The company shows how this could work with the online sheet-music store, MusicRoom, which allows searches by, for instance, title, artist, combination of instruments, musical style or any other term chosen by a potential customer.


story: Nick Clayton;   picture: Roger Donovan;    Appeared in BUSINESS A.M. on Tuesday 3 October, 2000.